A national marijuana-advocacy group’s support for asking Arizona voters in 2016 to legalize marijuana is drawing a wary reaction from the state’s budding industry of medical marijuana dispensaries.
Arizona is among 10 states where the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project has said it supports campaigns, either through legislation or ballot measures, to legalize marijuana.
Voters in Arizona in 2010 narrowly approved a medical marijuana law that now allows tens of thousands of cardholders to use marijuana for cancer or other specified medical conditions.
State-licensed dispensaries have opened in communities across Arizona to provide marijuana to cardholders.
Bill Myer is co-owner of the Arizona Organix dispensary in Glendale. He told The Arizona Republic the state should probably let its medical marijuana program fully develop before taking a step further.
“I’m not so sure that, at this stage, we would be for immediate legalization,” said Myer.
Myer and some other dispensary operators also say they are concerned about how legalized recreational use could affect their financial investments.
“There’s significant financial investments involved,” Myer said. “Dispensaries may not be able to recoup before other people are made available to do the same things with very little capital investments. It’s absolutely our concern.”
A dentist whose family owns dispensaries in Wickenburg and Quartzsite said he doesn’t worry about losing the market to other dispensaries established under legalization.
But Dr. Edward Kirk also said marijuana should strictly be treated as medicine.
“I already see people have borderline abused the medical end of what’s out there,” Kirk said. “For full legalization — I don’t think that’s a good idea at this point here. It needs to remain medical.”
Murray Stein, managing partner for the Green Halo dispensary in Tucson, doesn’t have a strong opinion on full legalization but said state regulation must be maintained.
“This is a very powerful product. It’s a drug you don’t fool around with. It needs to be properly regulated,” Stein said.
Thai Nguyen, who operates the Herbal Wellness Center in Phoenix, said he is anxious about how legalization would affect established dispensaries.
He said he will withhold support until the Marijuana Policy Project releases language on how the program would be structured.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said law enforcement will oppose any efforts to further loosen marijuana laws.